NABJ mourns loss of founder, celebrated journalist Chuck Stone

Chuck Stone

Chuck Stone

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) mourns the passing of veteran journalist and educator Charles Sumner ‘Chuck’ Stone, Jr. who was a founder of NABJ and the association’s first national president.

Stone died Sunday at the age of 89.

Stone’s illustrious and groundbreaking career as a journalist began when he served as editor of the New York Age. Later he was the White House correspondent and editor of the Washington Afro-American. He was ultimately named editor-in-chief of the Chicago Daily Defender. Also an author and commentator, his books Tell It Like It Is, Black Political Power In America and King Strut led to national media appearances. From 1972 to 1991, Stone was a political columnist and senior editor for the Philadelphia Daily News. He also was the inaugural host of the PBS program ‘Black Perspectives On The News.’ Stone was nominated for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize multiple times. He later was inducted into NABJ’s Hall of Fame, and was presented the Society of Professional Journalists’ Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award.

“We have 44 founders, but many of them credit Chuck Stone with being the driving force behind NABJ,” association President Bob Butler said. “Chuck chaired the first meeting and became the first president. He provided the rudder that steered NABJ at a time when being a member was not always easy. Some employers back then told members to choose between their jobs and NABJ. Our members now excel in all segments of the news media as columnists, anchors, reporters, producers, photographers and, most importantly, managers. There is still a lack of diversity in newsroom management, but what does exist is because of Chuck and the
other founders of NABJ.”

As an industry leader, Stone served as president of what was then the Association of Black Journalists in Philadelphia, now known as the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, a forerunner for NABJ. As NABJ’s founding president, he helped develop a national presence for the organization, exemplified by well-reasoned yet impassioned advocacy and strategic initiatives which were bolstered by the determination of members to work diligently in newsrooms reporting the news with a devotion to accuracy, ethics, fairness and quality storytelling.

Stone was born on July 21, 1924. After service as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II, he graduated from Wesleyan University in 1948 and earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. He used his vast knowledge and experience in the classroom teaching in most of the cities where he worked and lived. While in Chicago, he taught at Columbia College. In Philadelphia, he taught at Bryn Mawr College and the University of Delaware. After leaving daily journalism, he served as the Walter Spearman Professor in University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 1999 to 2005.

“I recall Chuck from our founding meeting and before that during the early days of the Philadelphia ABJ (Association of Black Journalists), which was instrumental in the formation of NABJ,” said NABJ founder and Washington Post reporter Joe Davidson. “He was always on point during those eventful meetings and was absolutely essential to the birth of what has become an amazing organization. Later, some of us had differences with Chuck, but there is no doubt about the vital role he played in NABJ. He was a giant in many ways. His death makes me very sad, yet appreciate him all the more. NABJ owes him a lot.”

According to a tribute essay published 15 years ago in NABJ’s ‘Committed to the Cause: A Salute to NABJ’s Presidents,’ Stone was described as “superbly suited to be the first leader of an organization seeking to not only change the way the media would tell Black America’s story, but who was going to tell it.”
NABJ founder Allison Davis said Stone was the key to NABJ’s longevity.

“Fledgling organizations have start and stops for whatever reason,” said Davis, the organization’s first parliamentarian. “NABJ has been able to sustain itself because we had a great foundation. Despite our lack of e-mail, we had Chuck’s mighty pen. I must have received at least three letters a week from Chuck with instructions.”

Stone is survived by children Krishna Stone, Allegra Stone and Charles S. Stone III; grandchild Parade Stone; and sisters Madalene Seymour and Irene Gordy.

His family asks that donations be made to the Chuck Stone Citizen of the World fund at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication Foundation of North Carolina Inc. at UNC-Chapel Hill.